Branches Melksham Calne & Chippenham News
Canal Trust urges Public Support
Sunday, 21 October 2012 07:59

Workparty-1000Canal Trust urges public support for ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ opportunity to transform town

 An award-winning charity is urging Melksham residents to show their support for a former canal to be brought back through the town. The Wilts & Berks Canal Trust has described the ambitious plan as a "once-in-a-lifetime" opportunity to transform local tourism and employment. The charity, which recently received the Queen's Award for Voluntary Service in recognition of its restoration campaign, is seeking planning permission from Wiltshire Council. The current consultation has been extended until Friday November 2. Residents and businesses can register their support online by visiting the West Wiltshire section of www.wiltshire.gov.uk/planninganddevelopment and entering W/12/01080/FUL

The plans include a new junction with the Kennet & Avon Canal near the Semington bridge where there would be a potential site for a new marina.
The route heads north to Berryfield before joining the River Avon near the Challymead roundabout, where a new weir would raise the water level to allow boats to navigate through the town centre. The existing floodgate above the town bridge would remain exactly as it is today, but a new river lock and a hydro-electric turbine would be built alongside. The canal would continue north along the edge of Melksham Forest and then rejoin the original route towards Lacock, where significant stretches have already been restored and reopened. The proposed changes could even reduce the risk of flooding.

Kath Hatton is vice-chairman of the Trust and a member of the Melksham, Chippenham & Calne branch.She said: "This is one of the most significant moments in the history of the restoration of the Wilts & Berks Canal, and presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform Melksham. Instead of turning our backs on the river, we'll turn it into one of the town's most important assets. The project would provide a much-needed boost to local tourism and employment, as well as creating new wildlife habitats and safe routes for walking and cycling.The social, economic, environmental and cultural benefits of a restored waterway have already been demonstrated across the UK, where towns have seen the creation of new wildlife habitats and the establishment of canalside cafes and bars and other facilities."

Kath added: "We admit it's ambitious, but we won't be expecting local taxpayers to foot the bill. Instead we'll be approaching national organisations such as the Heritage Lottery Fund and other bodies to provide the necessary grants. This is how the nearby Kennet & Avon was restored and reopened, and we see no reason why it shouldn't be the same for the Wilts & Berks through Melksham. We are so sincerely grateful to everyone who has already registered their support for the plans, but we really need the maximum number of people to increase our chance of success – every voice really will count."

For further information on the local branch of the charity, visit www.melkshamwaterway.org.uk
More details on the Melksham Link can also be found at www.wiltsandberkscanal.org.uk/projects/melksham-link